Jazz vocalists have made immeasurable contributions to the American songbook. Not only was Louis Armstrong renowned for his innovations as a trumpet soloist, but he also had a distinctive, gravelly voice that incorporated swing and humor. A host of other jazz singers enjoyed great popularity in the mid-20th century, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Nina Simone. Several established careers in film and television as well. Contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall continue to carry the musical baton.
Legendary performer Nina Simone sang a mix of jazz, blues and folk music in the 1950s and '60s, later enjoying a career resurgence in the '80s. A staunch Civil Rights activist, she was known for tunes like "Mississippi Goddam," "Young, Gifted and Black" and "Four Women," among many others.
Nat King Cole became the first African-American performer to host a variety TV series in 1956. He's best known for his soft baritone voice and for singles like "The Christmas Song," "Mona Lisa" and "Nature Boy."
Audra McDonald is an actress and vocalist known for an array of acclaimed stage work, starring in the productions 'Carousel,' 'Ragtime,' 'Twelfth Night' and 'Porgy and Bess,' among others. She has won a record-setting six Tonys and also worked in film and TV, with roles in projects like 'Private Practice' and 'A Raisin in the Sun.'
Harry Connick Jr. is an American jazz musician and actor known for musical projects such as the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack and films like Memphis Belle and Independence Day. In 2014, he began starring as a judge on American Idol.